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Implementing process safety across a diverse global manufacturing group

18 May 2015

AkzoNobel is a leading paints and chemicals manufacturer with operations in 80 countries around the globe. In this article, Corporate HSE Policy Director Richard Westlake describes the single process safety management (PSM) framework that has been developed for all of the group’s diverse manufacturing operations worldwide, based on industry best practice and a common set of risk tolerance criteria.

AkzoNobel has operations in 80 countries around the world
AkzoNobel has operations in 80 countries around the world

AkzoNobel today

AkzoNobel is a leading global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals. Calling on centuries of expertise, the group supplies industries and consumers worldwide with innovative products and sustainable technologies designed to meet the growing demands of our fast-changing planet. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the company has approximately 48,000 people in around 80 countries, and its portfolio includes well-known brands such as Dulux, Sikkens, International and Eka.

The safety context includes a tradition of business self-sufficiency with diverse safety histories, a significant manufacturing footprint in developing regions and widely varying expectations of regulators. The company’s vision is to strive for zero injuries, waste and harm by implementing consistent, common and systematically applied safety processes – the Safety Common Platform. This means transforming a company with variable safety standards, performance and capability into one which achieves enduring leadership in these areas, based on an embedded and sustainable safety culture. 

Safety Common Platform

Company-wide programs to implement and embed these processes are resourced by the businesses at site level and through regional expert pools – this helps leverage examples of excellence. Each year the Safety Common Platform is updated – the five year implementation plan sets out annual milestones for the businesses. Implementation is the responsibility of line managers, supported by the HSE function, with progress reviewed quarterly by the CEO.

Safety Common Platform
Safety Common Platform

None of the processes of the Safety Common Platform are innovative in themselves. We take pride in applying the hard earned learning of other companies and leveraging the substantial cross- learning opportunities provided by our own diversity.

AkzoNobel PSM Framework

The framework consists of 21 building blocks based on international best practice and legal requirements. Many of these are generic requirements for any safety improvement process and are all part of the continuous improvement cycle. Application of the framework is based on risk and regulatory compliance requirements and common risk acceptance criteria are used throughout the company.

Each plant adopts the internationally accepted engineering design standards relevant for its industry. In order to ensure common companywide risk acceptance criteria, all hazard studies and other risk assessments including process hazard analyses and periodic reviews, are performed using the company risk matrix.

PSM implementation

PSM Framework
PSM Framework

Manufacturing sites implement the PSM framework according to a common set of milestones:

1.  Train

•  Site PSM applicability check executed 

•  Site manager and site PSM team training done

2.  Scan

•  Site PSM scan executed; gaps identified

•  Site improvement plan updated 

3.  Implement

•  PS information for applicable installations on site in place

•  High quality hazard study 3 executed 


4.  Complete

•  Site PSM implementation closing the gaps 

•  Verification on gap closure 

Milestones 1 and 2 are completed in year 1; milestones 3 and 4 are completed in years 2 and 3. The aim is an embedded and sustainable process. Sites are prioritized according to hazard and safety maturity, with high hazard/low maturity sites in phase A, and low hazard/high maturity sites in phase C.

Support for implementation

Safety capability is built internally, in the line and the safety support function. Each site has its own PSM implementation team including a PSM Champion who will normally be the Site Responsible Engineer. Site teams including the site safety resource are supported by the process safety expert pools set up in each region, while pool members are acknowledged experts mostly coming from the individual businesses.

Expert Pools
Expert Pools

Expert pools

Expert pool members receive common training in the PSM framework and also input from external consultants with thorough knowledge of PSM regulations and the AkzoNobel framework. The aim is to ensure expert pool members become fully capable to implement without external consultancy support.

Pools are regional (Asia, Europe, North and South America) with a nucleus of full time resources. Pools include part time (~20%) resources from sites for people and process safety and (~5%) for auditing & incident investigation.

Expert pools are led by regional leaders with responsibility for implementation support for people and process safety programs and delivery of company safety training programs.

Continuous improvement

Brazil paint research laboratory – Image AkzoNobel
Brazil paint research laboratory – Image AkzoNobel

Process safety is supported by the continuous improvement process. The self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) is a framework of leading indicators for assessing safety maturity established in 2008. Updated PSM questions have been added to the SAQ in 2014, to reflect the new requirements of the PSM framework. All auditable units use the SAQ to assess their safety maturity and prepare a safety improvement plan (SIP) annually. The SAQ is also used for auditing on a 3-5 year cycle. KPIs include metrics for performance (eg losses of containment), maturity (SAQ scores) and implementation (the four milestones).

Capability building

Process safety is supported by the capability building process. Training schemes have been developed for site management and their teams as well as for expert pools members, and are delivered regionally in workshops and also via e-learnings, webinars and virtual classrooms. The internal website provides access to the PSM framework, templates, tools and training as well as to the company safety rules and procedures.


For AkzoNobel, safety is a marathon and not a sprint. The company has committed to implementing the PSM framework across all manufacturing sites over a five year timescale, because we know that rigorous implementation and thorough embedding takes time. A uniform PSM framework which has been implemented by the company’s line managers, supported by the company’s own safety professionals and systematically built into the procedures and culture of all the company’s factories will not only reduce the risk of unwanted incidents. It will be also become a solid foundation for operational excellence.

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